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Irish Ferries W.B. Yeats Resumes Its 'Seasonal' French Route Role Albeit With the Caveat of Covid-19

10th June 2020
W.B.Yeats finally resumed its seasonal summer time role on the Dublin-Cherbourg route which saw the cruiseferry depart the Irish capital yesterday albeit under grey skies. Likewise a similar scene as above of this file photo taken when the cruiseferry berthed at one of the French port's ro-ro linkspan's. W.B.Yeats finally resumed its seasonal summer time role on the Dublin-Cherbourg route which saw the cruiseferry depart the Irish capital yesterday albeit under grey skies. Likewise a similar scene as above of this file photo taken when the cruiseferry berthed at one of the French port's ro-ro linkspan's. Photo: Port de Cherbourg-facebook

Irish Ferries W.B. Yeats which has been delayed in resuming Ireland-France 'cruiseferry' sailings by almost three months due to Covid19, has finally begun its 'seasonal' service role, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat tracked W.B. Yeats depart Dublin Port yesterday for the first sailing to Cherbourg which was originally scheduled to have taken place in mid-March.

The ferry operator is continuously monitoring the evolving Covid19 situation in relation to passenger travel and has FAQ's through this LINK for consultation.

In addition Irish Ferries maintain links for essential travel such as repatriation and travel for carers/essential workers including medical staff.

As for freight traffic this has been consistent throughtout the ongoing health crisis in playing a critical role in the supply chain. This enables keeping supermarket shelves remain stocked and important pharmaceutical and medical supplies shipped.

Since the end of the 2019 season, ropax Epsilon has maintained the year-round operated service until Monday of this week. On this day, the Irish Government eased the Covid-19 restrictions under Phase 2, noting as for travel limits they be lifted from the end of June. For important travel information from the Dept of Foreign Affairs click here.

Also on that day Afloat tracked the arrival to Dublin of the chartered ropax ferry from France followed by W.B. Yeats from Holyhead, Wales. Later it would be the case for both cruiseferry and the 'no-frills' ropax make Dublin-Holyhead sailings as scheduled.

Also due to Covid19, all fastferry sailings by Dublin Swift that were due to resume seasonal services in April are cancelled.

W.B. Yeats had as scheduled served on the Ireland-Wales during the winter months in tandem with the route's main cruiseferry Ulysses and the aforementioned Epsilon. As for W.B. Yeats service on the Irish Sea short-sea route was longer then planned due to Covid19 that led unexpectingly into the Spring.

During that timeframe, Ulysses was away for several months for planned annual dry-docking but this year took place in Poland, where emission 'scrubbers' required by the EU Sulphur Directive to reduce pollution were installed. Such features are included in the 2018 German shipyard built W.B. Yeats though the superstructure was completed in Poland and towed by barge for heavy-lift transfer onto the hull. 

W.B. Yeats return to service saw the cruiseferry today make an arrival to the French port located at the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandie. Its location is notably ideall for those intending to the visit the Normandy beaches involved in the WW2 where the D-Day Landings took place on 6th June 1944. Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy where Irish people served among the allied forces invasion of occupied France. 

Returning to the present where at the French port is from where at the time of writing, W.B. Yeats departed bound for the Irish capital where it is due to make an arrival tomorrow morning before resuming sailing again at 1600hrs.

The Port of Cherbourg SAS is operated by the private company whose shareholders are the West Normandy Chamber of Commerce and Louis Dreyfus Shipowners. This established French shipping company through a subsidary LD Lines, was a big player mostly in the 2010's by rapidly expanding a route network involving France, UK, Ireland and Spain but is no longer in existance.

Among its earlier routes launched was Le Havre-Rosslare in late 2008 however this was short-lived as LD Lines ceased the service in the next year. However they chartered the route's ropax Norman Voyager to Celtic Link Ferries (now part of Stena Line). See recent related story here.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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